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There is a definitive medical answer to the question: What is mesothelioma? However, to the victim suffering from this condition it is a term that is synonymous with misfortune and ultimately, a bad outcome. The diagnosis usually comes as a complete surprise, with no advance warning that it is about to attack. It is a “creeping disease”, with exposures to asbestos thirty, forty and even fifty years ago or more being the cause. This “latency” period is the reason why many are shocked when they receive word of the diagnosis: Exposure to asbestos at remote times and places is often forgotten or are a little more than distant memories. When the diagnosis comes, those distant memories become acutely relevant to the present day.

What is mesothelioma? It is the residual effect of the asbestos fibers breathed in decades ago having worked their way through the lung tissue to the lining of the lung where they imbed themselves and begin to do their damage. While the precise mechanism by which cells turn cancerous is not yet known for certain, it is known that asbestos fibers in the lung are the principal, if not only cause of this rare form of cancer, mesothelioma.

While some might experience the early signs of an asbestos-related illness, such as pleural thickening or asbestosis, most experience nothing until shortly before receiving the diagnosis. The diagnosis is usually made after the acute development of pain in the side, often accompanied by fluid buildup which requires draining. Thus, for many, the first visit to the doctor to deal with this new unexplained pain is often the step right before the diagnosis is made. Mesothelioma typically spreads itself across and throughout the lining of the lung, causing the body’s defense mechanisms to kick into action, leading to fluid buildups which do more than defend, as they begin to ultimately suffocate the lungs and the internal organs. While experimental surgeries and treatments are being tested, no cure has been found. The surgery being done at a few institutions involves removing the entire lining of the lung. In rare circumstances this treatment has pro-longed life, but the mesothelioma tumors can almost never be fully eliminated. Many new forms of chemotherapy have been tried, with some providing temporary relief, but none having provided a cure.

What is mesothelioma? An aggressive, usually terminal disease which arises out of the victim’s distant past. The only way to prevent the disease is to avoid any exposure to asbestos. Exposures in the past cannot be eliminated. Therefore, the risk to those exposed to asbestos is always present. The medicine is limited, a cure is virtually non-existent. Mesothelioma remains as a horrible legacy of the sale of asbestos products in the United States and around the world.

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